Given the Bush administration 's propensity for double speak we can make a good projection of what the new guest worker bill will look like when it is passed and instituted. Like the Clear Skies Initiative, that allowed increased air pollution; the proposed Healthy Forest Bill, which allowed the cutting of old growth forests; and the No Child Left Behind Bill, that promises to destroy the educational opportunity of millions; the immigration bill should be a doozy. In fact I would like to suggest to the administration that in the spirit of its previous legislation that they name the bill In-Sourcing: The Equal Wage Opportunity Bill. Equal with a third world nation that is.
Causes of Illegal Immigration
While there has always been a flow of immigrants legal and illegal to the U.S. looking for increased opportunity, economic and foreign policy (often inseparable) have forced great increases in immigration. There are several actions that they U.S. has taken and continues to pursue that encourage illegal immigration and they serve policy makers in a number of different ways.
1) TRADE POLICY: NAFTA resulted in the dumping millions of tons of cheap corn on the markets of Mexico and lowering prices that small farmers couldn 't compete with. Estimates are that up to three million farmers were put out of work in Mexico alone. Other "free trade agreements " have similar effects. The irony is that many times this land is consolidated by corporations and rich landholders into vast fields producing soybeans or corn to produce even cheaper products displacing even more small farmers.
Many of these farmers moved to the cities to work in Maquiladoras, but found out that companies preferred to hire their wives and daughters before them because they were cheaper and less likely to organize. Even many of these jobs left for China for even lower wages after a few years. The vast majority of these desperate people had no choice but to journey north looking for any work they could find.
The social problems this causes are immense. Families are split up, people die in the passage, groups of men live together in subhuman conditions in the states and become involved in alcohol, drugs or crime as a result of the limited access to productive investment or involvement in the community in which they reside. Already illegal, their inclusion in the illegal U.S. economy, drug trade, gangs etc is a strong draw. These are refugees from the uncaring effects of corporate globalization.
2) RELIEVING THE PRESSURE FOR REVOLUTION: Immigration and the remittance of moneys earned in the U.S. to families in Mexico and Central American countries serve the purpose of American foreign policy. American foreign policy historically supports dictators and oppressive government against populist movements that threaten corporate wealth and control. One only needs to look at the current attitude towards Venezuela let alone its history in Central and South America to see a consistent pattern. That pattern of policy supports corruption and oligarchy in countries that exploit their own people for the benefit of multinational corporations in two ways.
Populist movements are created when a certain percentage of the working age population are dissatisfied enough to bring about radical reform. Allowing a certain portion of primarily young males to be exported lowers the risk of revolt. The second is through shoring up of the economies of these countries, especially the plight of the poor through remittances, or money shipped home by the working aliens in this country.
How important is this? Over $30 billion dollars a year leaves the U.S. to other countries in the form of remittances to the relatives of illegal workers each year. In 2003 approximately 5 million Mexican illegal 's sent home $13 billion dollars in remittances, 238 thousand Guatemalans sent $1.2 billion, 336 thousand Salvadorans (10% of the Salvadoran work force) send home $2.5 billion. Similar numbers go on not only with other Central and South American countries but also many in Asia.
This is no small amount, it is the second biggest source of income next to oil in Mexico, constitutes 17% of the GDP of El Salvador and 10% of the GDP of Guatemala impacting 30% of the households in the country. In Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua the destruction of the local economies is a direct result of American government support for repressive governments that destroyed populist uprisings. The U.S. support of this repression was primarily to protect American multinational companies exploitive interests. Government repression of these movements has forced whole populations of indigenous peoples to become economic and political refugees, many fleeing first to Mexico and then the U.S.
As a result multinational companies can continue to bribe and corrupt the governments of other countries to allow them to exploit their natural resources and economies for their benefit and at the same time undercut American workers with desperate alien workers in the U.S. The impact for the U.S. government is it makes those governments dependent on U.S. based companies and international aid, primarily military to maintain repression of populist movements.
3) UNDERMINING AMERICAN UNIONS AND WORKERS: The constant mantra of "illegal workers do jobs that American workers don 't want to do " is purely baloney. The official American unemployment rate of 5.5% is based on a definition that makes unemployment appear to be lower than it is. If you take the total unemployed, plus all marginally attached and discouraged workers, plus total employed part time who want full time work the real number is 12.2% or 18.5 million workers. In addition there are 1.3 million people who are incarcerated that are not counted. Much of the time the incarcerated are the product of lack of hope of participating in the legal economy. Another 4.4 million worked full time and made less then than the federal poverty rate of $19,000/year. Amazingly this figure included 500,000 families where there were two full time workers.
Also not counted are the 20 million U.S. workers who are under employed for their skill and educational level. Consequently if you add the real unemployment numbers of 18.5 million, 1.3 million incarcerated, 4.4 million poverty workers, and 20 million underemployed you get a total of 44.2 million workers who are unemployed or underemployed in the American workforce. This dwarfs the estimated 10 million illegal workers in the country.
With the defeat of the recent miserly proposal to lift the $5.15 minimum wage ($11,330/year) by a $1.10 reveals the real motive of government policy, suppress wages. The real problem is not getting people to work, it is to get people to do backbreaking work for minimal wages. To do so companies and government policy pit desperation against employment to drive down worker wages not only through outsourcing to other countries, but also a policy of allowing if not encouraging insourcing, the admission of legal and illegal workers to push down American wage and benefits.
This problem is not only limited to the uneducated worker. Legal immigration of educated workers has caused an increase in the unemployment and underemployment (being employed at a lower salary and skill level then they have been trained for) of college educated U.S. natives. While the bio-tec, information technology and medical fields have been especially hard hit by this phenomena, others are soon to open. Last year Mississippi started recruiting teachers from India.